Big-budget stop-motion wrapping in B.C.

Vancouver may be swamped with animators, but the makers of Edison and Leo had to fly in stop-motion specialists to shoot the $8-million feature, from Infinity Features and Perfect Circle

VANCOUVER — Infinity Features (Capote) has hooked up with Perfect Circle Productions (The Timekeeper) to make Canada’s first stop-motion animated feature film, and hopes to wrap the $10-million Edison and Leo this month.

‘We hope to finish shooting in December, if all goes well,’ says Perfect Circle producer Karen Powell, who is helming the project along with partner Dean English and Infinity’s William Vince. The 80-member crew launched into action in July, in an old residential school in Mission, BC.

‘It’s a very laborious, grueling process – stop-motion requires enormous amounts of patience. But when we saw the script we knew this was the look we wanted. It’s a realist style, pushed over the top,’ says Powell.

Written by George Toles (The Saddest Music in the World ), the film is a fairytale-gone-wrong story about an inventor, voiced by Powers Boothe (Sin City), and his son Leo, played by Gregory Smith (The Patriot), during the discovery of electricity.

‘We developed it over four years, with Movie Central, Telefilm, Manitoba Film, but we were shy of funds and needed financial investors. Infinity stepped in,’ says Powell. TVA Films is the Canadian distributor.

Although Vancouver is touted as the hotbed of talent for new media, digital and CG animation, not one of the 10 animators on set is from the area. ‘I had to recruit them from across Canada,’ says Powell.

Animator Chris Pounds describes the frame-by-frame process as ‘excruciating.’

‘We have puppets that are set up, then we move all the puppets by hand, then take a photo with a digital-still camera, then do it again and again and again,’ says Pounds.

Powell confirms it’s a technique that requires patience. ‘In a 10-hour day, we get up to five seconds per animator. So at the end of the day, we may have 50 seconds.’

Surprisingly, she says it’s ‘very cost effective. It’s the fastest animating method you can do. What we get in the camera is finished. We get more at the front end, knowing what we have instead of doing it after. I thought the computer world would destroy this art form, but it has breathed new life into it. Because of computers, we can view what we shoot instantly, check it, and fix it if we need to.’

Powell (The Cabin Movie, Hard Core Logo) and English (Flower & Garnet, Kissed) hope to launch Edison and Leo at Cannes and then Toronto in 2008. Their long-term plan is to build a stop-motion animation studio in Vancouver.

‘There isn’t a stop-motion business here in Vancouver. Most of it is in Halifax and Montreal. Why not Vancouver?’ she asks.